By K Raveendran
Multi-dimensional pressure points that have forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to change his ways half way through his second tenure shows exactly why he has been promoting the one-nation, one-election idea. Simultaneous elections to parliament and state assemblies would have given him peace of mind in the current turmoil, but the prospects of adverse results in crucial assembly elections, including the most important UP, leave him no option but to do some course correction, though reluctantly.
Modi has been advocating simultaneous elections in the country on the ground that it interferes with the smooth functioning of governments. He insists that frequent elections are a deterrent to developmental progress, as the code of conduct relating to elections prevents policy decisions from being taken during and ahead of elections. He laments that every few months there is an election in some part of the country, which has its obvious fall-out on the administration. He has also favoured a single voter list for all polls for better efficiency and optimisation of costs.
Covid, as the biggest human tragedy of modern times, has also been a great leveller. The optics of human bodies floating around in Ganga like animal carcasses during floods, half-burnt bodies strewn around on river banks, lights emanating from funeral pyres burning in the pitch darkness of night falling on expressionless faces incapable of even grieving for their dead, people collapsing in vehicles lined up before oxygen-starved hospitals and desperate relatives virtually running from pillar to post with their near and dear ones for a hospital bed have punctured the credibility of the Modi government as an effective manager of the country’s affairs. There was a total breakdown of the country’s health infrastructure and as the crisis peaked, the Modi government was conspicuous more for its absence from the scene than anything else.
Going by his typical style, in which the prime minister operates in an orbit of his own, irrespective of what happens on the ground, even such tragedies could not have deflected Modi from pursuing his independent agenda, irrespective of whether the consequences of his misadventures have had disastrous impact on the economy and lives of people. But elections in bellwether states, whose results will be crucial for Narendra Modi and his party beyond their current terms, are posing the biggest challenge yet of his two terms.
But one-nation, one-election still remains a concept, which means he cannot takes things for granted, as he and his party realised in Bengal, where there were no takers for the ‘paribortan’ that the saffron party peddled for free. Mamata Banerjee proved too hard a nut to crack even for the Modi magic. Not just that the lotus has failed to bloom on the Bengla soil, the Mamata effect is threatening to assume a national dimension, which is inherently in conflict with the interests of BJP.
Though there is a good deal of distance between Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in terms of logistics, the two states are next door in terms of political geography. Hence the need for drastic action. The U-turn on the vaccine policy, with a month of its formulation, signalled the extent of desperation. As the damage was too serious to be mended with the usual publicity stunt, even the RSS could see the writing on the wall and the need for churning could not wait a minute longer. Recent days have been hectic, with so many meetings squeezed in, both at the political and bureaucratic level.
Recent days have seen the prime minister chair meetings of the ministries of petroleum, steel, Jal Shakti, skill development and entrepreneurship, civil aviation, industries, environment and others in a bid to come up with post-Covid programmes that could help retrieve the government’s credibility. Power corridors are abuzz with the talk of some major announcements being made that would impact social security and economic status of the vulnerable sections.
At the political level, there have been talks of a new leadership for UP, where Yogi Adityanath government’s ineptitude has not only damaged the state’s reputation, but brought down the standing of India itself in the comity of nations. Moves have been initiated to consolidate the Brahmin vote bank, alienated by the Thakur clan loyalties of the ruling establishment in Lucknow. Yogi himself was in Delhi for meeting the leadership trio of Modi, Amit Shah and party chief JP Nadda. Yogi has since returned to Lucknow, apparently with assurance, but the formidable challenge that the party faces in UP, as manifested in the humble panchayat elections, implies the possibility of more intense drama unfolding in the days to come. (IPA Service)